Dust talk swirls in campaign

Sophia ConstantineNorth West Telegraph
Dust in Wedgefield.
Camera IconDust in Wedgefield. Credit: Geoff Pritchard.

West End dust levels continue to be a State election talking point, with several Pilbara candidates suggesting mining companies should be responsible for fixing the problem.

BHP Billiton last week announced it had temporarily suspended assessment for its application to increase exports to 290 million tonnes a year while the Environmental Protection Authority conducted an inquiry into duplication of dust monitoring in Port Hedland.

A BHP spokeswoman said it welcomed the ministerial inquiry, and would use the extra time to consider stakeholder submissions and feedback raised regarding the licence amendment application.

“BHP Billiton’s dust performance at Port Hedland has improved over time, despite an increase in production, due to the effective use of our broad range of dust controls,” she said.

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Among those concerned about the West End dust problem was incumbent Pilbara MP Brendan Grylls, who said he had always believed in development and the ability to coexist with groups in the port.

“It needs to be done with the dust being managed — the dust is required by the Pilbara Ports Authority to be at a dust extinction moisture,” he said. “The port authority should be in charge of ensuring it doesn’t happen.

“The Town of Port Hedland should be able to co-exist happily with the biggest port in the world and it needs to be done by keeping the dust in the port.”

This sentiment was echoed by Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Jacqui Boydell.

“The Nationals have been clear that dust made by industry needs to be contained in the port and the development of West End and Port Hedland should not be hindered by dust escaping from the port,” she said.

Labor Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Stephen Dawson said it was a “disgrace” that after more than eight years, the Liberal National Government had still not resolved the problem.

“There is no transparency, no accountability and no action from the Liberal-National Government,” he said. “They are arrogant and out of touch.

“A McGowan Labor government will ensure an open and transparent process, with local community involvement in decision-making.

Liberal Pilbara candidate Mark Alchin said although he believed there had been improvements made by industry in the past decade, the level of dust was still concerning.

“It requires sitting down and finding a realistic target that everyone is happy to agree on,” he said.

Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Mark Lewis said despite the dust being “undeniably a big issue”, any candidate who thought they could put plans in place before an EPA report was released, was a “whistling Dixie”.

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